Committing to Commuters: Transit and Ohio’s New Energy Economy

March 9, 2009
   

Public Transportation could be a low-cost, environmentally friendly alternative to passenger-vehicle transportation, but the state of public transit in Ohio is lacking. According to data we analyzed from the National Transit Database on nine of Ohio’s larger public transit systems, as fuel prices increased rapidly from May 2007 to May 2008:

• The number of public transit rides taken by Ohioans averaged an increase of 5%
• The number of transit vehicles operated by these agencies declined 6%
• The miles travelled by transit vehicles declined 8%

In order for public transportation to become a viable option for Ohioans, riders need to feel confident they can rely on public transportation services to get where they need to go, in a timely fashion. Respondents to a small survey of Ohio’s transit agencies suggested that urban area transit riders use public transit services primarily to commute to work. Rural riders are predominantly disabled riders and senior citizens.

Ohio ranks 40th in the nation for its level of commitment towards public transportation, when considering state spending as a percentage of total transportation expenditures. Transportation spending should better reflect the positive role public transit can play in creating a more equitable, vibrant and sustainable Ohio. In Ohio, zero gas tax revenues go towards public transit due to a constitutional prohibition. Ohio should amend its state constitution to allow 20 percent of Ohio’s gas tax revenues to go into an Ohio Transit Trust Fund to develop a 21st century public transportation program.

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